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Corman and Shout! Factory have done it again, and this time it’s too hot to handle! On October 25th a triple feature DVD box set entitled LETHAL LADIES was released by Shout! Factory, and it includes three Corman-produced cult classics T.N.T JACKSON (1974), FIRECRACKER (1981), and my personal favorite of the three: TOO HOT TO HANDLE (1977).
TOO HOT TO HANDLE stars the tough-talking, waifish, blonde beauty Cheri Caffaro (you may remember her from other exploitation favorites such as the GINGER series and/or SAVAGE SISTERS). Caffaro is Samantha Fox, a contract killer who accepts a mission to kill a group of gangsters in the Philippines. Problems arise for the young beauty when she falls for a Manila-based detective who is investigating the murders she committed.
Director of TOO HOT TO HANDLE, Don Schain, was actually married to Caffaro at the time and he also directed her in GINGER (1971), GIRLS ARE FOR LOVING (1972), and THE ABDUCTORS (1973). Cheri divorced Schain and eventually remarried (she is still married today, and a very happy woman, I might add). Schain is now a major producer for the Disney Channel, of all things. Even odder, he was the head producer on HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL (2006). It is a common thread in exploitation films that the directors receive all the praise while the actresses receive very little money and are quickly typecast in their careers, making it extremely difficult to move outside of exploitation/genre films into roles that are well respected and high paying. Caffaro grew vastly tired of the Hollywood business early in her career, fed up with type-casting and the reputation she carried with her after starring in films that had her fist-fighting in bikinis and getting down n’ dirty with male and female co-stars onscreen.
After the re-release of the GINGER series (which was considered part of the porno-chic movement in New York City in the early 70s along with Damiano’s DEEP THROAT even though GINGER is not pornographic), exploitation fans yearned for more Caffaro, but there was little to be found. For years, Caffaro’s fans thought she had disappeared off the face of the planet, some even believed her to be dead. Caffaro’s co-star in THE ABDUCTORS, Jeramie Dreyfuss, believed Caffaro had been murdered, and she was almost certain she had read an obituary in the New York Times.
Caffaro wasn’t aware of her new found cult popularity, and her other films were not as readily available. Now for the first time, TOO HOT TO HANDLE is ready and waiting for your home television screen and Ms. Caffaro is back in business! Only this time - instead of B-movies - Caffaro is into BEE-keeping, raising money for her honey bee charity, and maintaining her brand new Cheri Caffaro website.
I had the lucky pleasure of meeting with Ms. Caffaro at Fred 62 in Los Angeles, California in July. She is as sharp as a tack and she tells the most fabulous stories with great detail. As we ate and chatted together, I knew how lucky I was to be speaking with Caffaro – she has given few interviews since she left the business, and she agreed to speak to me after receiving a recommendation from a close friend, and the fact that I was a woman. Cheri holds women in a very high regard, she told FANGORIA: “I wanted women to love the characters I played in films so I consciously chose strong female roles. I also performed my own stunts and advocated martial arts for women. My role as Samantha Fox in TOO HOT TO HANDLE is just one example of that.” Caffaro also had a role behind the scenes as a wardrobe coordinator; she picked many of the outfits in TOO HOT TO HANDLE out herself.
Filming TOO HOT TO HANDLE in the Phillipines was an experience that Caffaro loved; she had worked on SAVAGE SISTERS (1974) in Manila as well and enjoyed every minute of it. Caffaro: “I loved shooting there, it was fun, very different and unusual. There was a dictatorship government at the time, which was strange being born and raised in the United States myself. I really loved working there, though. You had to have a good sense of humor to shoot a film there, you had to be really laid back; it was so hot on most days. It could be as hot as 120 degrees! It was a completely different experience shooting in the Philippines and everyone onset became really closely knit.”
Today, Caffaro prefers a quieter life, but she is using her cult popularity to help create awareness for her favorite species: honey bees. She told me, “Well, I have two websites, cheri-caffaro.com and Hollywood Honey. My website serves a very important purpose. I’m selling a lot of my memorabilia and autographs, pictures, etc. The money goes to WWW.HOLLYWOODHONEY.ORG. Hollywood Honey is a company I started to encourage, enlighten, and educate people about the honeybee. I’ve become a beekeeper and it’s important to me to raise consciousness about the importance of the honeybee and colony collapse disorder (a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western honey bee colonies in North American since the late 2006s). We lost 40% of the bee population all over the world. This is a disaster because bees pollinate agricultural crops all over the world. Hollywood Honey is for people of all ages, people can donate to the project, and they can adopt a bee. My husband and I have a lot of experience and we have incredible observatories my husband built here at our home; you are even able to adopt a honeybee and we will send adoption papers. The bees give us amazing things – flowers, food, fruits, and honey. Nothing is better than natural honey products. It seems unusual to go from Ginger to honey – but when I put it that way, it really seems fitting, doesn’t it? I’ve gone from B-movies to beekeeping!”
Although Caffaro herself disappeared for many years (albeit she did a brief voice gig for the cartoon Extreme Ghostbusters in 1997), she is back in full force pursuing her new passion, as well as writing and working with a few film ideas on the side. Cheri Caffaro is as busy as the bees in her yard – and she’s definitely too hot to handle!
Support Cheri Caffaro by visiting her websites: http://www.cheri-caffaro.com and http://www.hollywoodhoney.org as well as joining her Facebook page.
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